Let’s rewind back to April of this year.
I noticed a new follower of my “Twit”-arded updates. Their handle was about as descriptive as it needed to be to perk my interest – “@AssamGreenTea”. Green tea. From Assam.
Assam green tea? That’s a thing?! I thought to myself.
I’m convinced that – biologically – I’m equipped with a geekcentric radar that rears its metaphoric antennae whenever something new or unique appears. Especially for those occurrences well within my area of interest. Thus far, I’d notched off Assam oolong and Assam white tea. Both were from the same estate – a possibly magical place called the Mothola estate. This, however, was something different.
The man behind the Assam Green Tea handle was Manish Bhartia, part of the family-owned Bhartia estate. I’d never heard of the estate before, but that’s nothing new. Tea estates in Assam are a dime a dozen. Estates focusing on green tea, though…
The Bhartia estate – or so Manish told me – was located near Joypur Village in Upper Assam. I wasn’t given any more information about what else they produced, but he obliged a really odd request I made of him. To, of course, sample some of his family estate’s green tea.
He graciously obliged the request, and kept me up-to-date on the delivery’s progress. One thing of note: Shipping from India to the U.S. is an exercise in patience. Sometimes it can take months. And this one did. I remained ever hopeful that the item would make it to my fair berg. This was, after all, the first time I’d ever contacted a tea estate directly for a unique ware.
On an oddly rainy day in July, I went to check the mail. A package had arrived, but it was too big to fit in the mailbox. That and the package cages were in use. I had to travel to the post office halfway across town to acquire it. I didn’t care, though. There was time to kill between errand-running, and a new tea was on the horizon. I remained excited the entire time.
What I did not expect was how big the package actually was. Manish had sent me a lot of Assam green tea. Like, at least 100 grams of the stuff.
When I requested a sample, I was expecting – maybe – 6 grams. Enough to play around with. The Assamese are hardcore when it comes to tea, apparently. I tore it open as soon as I got home – as I often do.
What was most striking was the visual presentation. This did not look like a green tea at all. Rather, it resembled a typical – if tippy – Assam black tea, except that the tips were silver instead of gold.
Some of the leaves were long-cut, while others were broken pekoe-ish in appearance. What gave it away as a green tea was the scent – straight grass and wilderness. It was quite lovely.
Over the course of the week, I played around with this tea to see what it was made of. It was definitely Assamese in the fact that it had one defining characteristic it wanted to highlight. Assam black teas lean toward malt – all the time. It was only fitting that a green tea from that region would highlight a typical green tea trait – grass. The hotter water I used, the grassier it got. I didn’t mind, no matter which way I tried it. Heck, one wouldn’t be drinking green tea if they didn’t like a little “grass” in their cup.
After some trial and error, though, I came to an odd but interesting conclusion. This tea was…*le gasp!*…delicate. A delicate Assam; my head reeled.
After a week or so, I finally sat down to give it a proper treatment. This time, I took 1 tsp. of leaves, put it in a 6oz. gaiwan, and brewed it in 170F water for three minutes. I went lighter to see what transpired.
The liquor brewed a pretty yellow-gold with a spry scent of freshly-mowed lawn and herbs. Taste-wise, the first thing I noticed on the front was – of course – grass. While it did indeed have a grassy lean, there was also a slight tickle of malt and flowers. Odd for me to say, but it reminded me of a curly sencha (tamaryokucha) by way of a Mao Feng. Not much in the way of subtlety, but still quite enjoyable. Unlike other Assam teas, though, it required a gentler touch to bring out its strengths.
Like a geek with a metaphoric radar.
For more information, I strongly recommend checking out Manish’s blog. Kinda insightful about tea estate living. (This is my “jealous” face.)